OBSERVATIONS ON PRESIDENT KENNEDY’S FUNERAL By Victoria Giraud

Robert Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy, and John Kennedy, Jr. at JFK Funeral

To continue my diary entries from 49 years ago, this section adds some details of the funeral. It was a groundbreaking event for television, the first time a major news story was carried live in real time. Television sets were scarcer in 1963, not ubiquitous as they are now. College students didn’t have a TV in their room, or even a telephone, much less a cell phone! We probably bonded together more…

25 November

It’s over now—the funeral and procession. Thank God! What a miserable time it has been for all of us. I feel sorriest for Jackie—she gave her husband to the country and then it took him from her forever.

Since 10:30 a.m. today I have been nearly rooted to the TV. I watched it at the Student Center until 12 and then went over to Mr. and Mrs. Reeves (family friend from Army days). I saw the procession of the body from the Capitol to the White House and then to the Cathedral. I saw the tail end of the mass where one of the priests read some of Kennedy’s most well-known speeches and some of his favorite quotations. After the service there was the long march to Arlington Cemetery and the short service there. Many military units and bands marched. A frequent piece was Chopin’s “Funeral March.” The graveside ceremony was very stirring—jets flew overhead, 21-gun salute and taps.

I was lucky to have some family friends in Williamsburg.  My dormitory had one small TV in the downstairs lounge for whoever wanted to watch; the same applied to the Student Center. As I recall there was only one TV in a large facility. Watching in the comfort of a private home was a luxury. I remember we watched in silence for the most part. I was too busy crying to notice much of anything except what was on the TV screen. I particularly remember the funeral procession with the riderless horse with riding boots in the stirrups facing backward, I believe.

Then Jackie, Ted and Bobby Kennedy lit the flame that would burn for sometime beside the grave (how long, I don’t know then).

Death has certainly pervaded the whole atmosphere of this campus (William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA). There were no classes today even—but who can study. The weekend wasn’t bad—my friend Karin Nelson came to see me and we were able to forget it after the memorial service on campus at noon Saturday. But today all depression returned. At one point I didn’t know what to do with myself. I found myself nearly breaking down so many times as I watched the television. Tears constantly kept welling up. No doubt that’s how most felt.

But now I want to forget—at least to a great extent. I’m tired of this weight.

That Christmas I traveled via military space available via airplane to Mannheim, Germany, to see my folks for the holidays. Military bases, like Maguire Air Force Base where I waited for a plane, were in mourning and there was no live music for 30 days. Of course the bars didn’t close down!

 

 

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